Total 40 Posts

## [Pseudocontext Saturdays] Exoskeleton

This Week’s Installment

Poll

What mathematical skill is the textbook trying to teach with this image?

[poll id=”12″]

(If you’re reading via email or RSS, you’ll need to click through to vote. Also, you’ll need to check that link tomorrow for the answer.)

Current Scoreboard

Team Me: 6
Team Commenters: 4

Rules

Every Saturday, I post an image from a math textbook. It’s an image that implicitly or explicitly claims that “this is how we use math in the world!”

I post the image without its mathematical connection and offer three possibilities for that connection. One of them is the textbook’s. Two of them are decoys. You guess which connection is real.

After 24 hours, I update the post with the answer. If a plurality of the commenters picks the textbook’s connection, one point goes to Team Commenters. If a plurality picks one of my decoys, one point goes to Team Me. If you submit a mathematical question in the comments about the image that isn’t pseudocontext, collect a personal point.

(See the rationale for this exercise.)

Mega-Grandma!

Later the text goes on to ask students to construct and graph the formula for the average cost of producing the Mega-Grandma, which turns out to be a rational function given the constraints.

But the text might have been better served by asking students to solve for generic widgets, or tennis balls, or something a little less gonzo-bananas than the Mega-Grandma exoskeleton, which is all I’m going to remember from this unit in the textbook.

BTW. Thanks to Jasper LaFortune for the submission.

This Week’s Installment

Poll

What mathematical skill is the textbook trying to teach with this image?

[poll id=”11″]

(If you’re reading via email or RSS, you’ll need to click through to vote. Also, you’ll need to check that link tomorrow for the answer.)

Current Scoreboard

Team Me: 5
Team Commenters: 4

Pseudocontext Submissions

William Carey has offered two additional genres of pseudocontext that are worth your attention:

One motif in pseudocontextual questions seems to be treating as a variable things that, you know, don’t vary.

The car question follows a fascinating pattern that shows up in lots of physicsy work: it begs the question. Physicists like to measure things. Sometimes measuring something directly is tricky (or impossible), so we measure other things, and then calculate the thing we actually want.

Questions like that have as their givens the thing we can’t measure and ask us to calculate the thing that we can measure. It’s absolutely backwards.

Rules

Every Saturday, I post an image from a math textbook. It’s an image that implicitly or explicitly claims that “this is how we use math in the world!”

I post the image without its mathematical connection and offer three possibilities for that connection. One of them is the textbook’s. Two of them are decoys. You guess which connection is real.

After 24 hours, I update the post with the answer. If a plurality of the commenters picks the textbook’s connection, one point goes to Team Commenters. If a plurality picks one of my decoys, one point goes to Team Me. If you submit a mathematical question in the comments about the image that isn’t pseudocontext, collect a personal point.

(See the rationale for this exercise.)

The commenters bit down hard on the lure this time, folks. The correct answer — “calculating area of parallelograms” — was selected least.

Delicious pseudocontext, right? The judges all suffered massive strokes when they saw this problem so I couldn’t get their official ruling, but I don’t think it matters. This context fails the “Come on, really?” test for pseudocontext.

“This unpredictable force of nature is threatening a precisely-bounded parallelogram? Come on, really?”

How could we neutralize the pseudocontext? I would be thrilled to see a task that invited students to select and approximate important regions with various quadrilaterals, but let’s not lie about where our tools are useful.

## [Pseudocontext Saturdays] Fish Tank

This Week’s Installment

Poll

What mathematical skill is the textbook trying to teach with this image?

[poll id=”10″]

(If you’re reading via email or RSS, you’ll need to click through to vote. Also, you’ll need to check that link tomorrow for the answer.)

Current Scoreboard

Team Me: 5
Team Commenters: 3

Pseudocontext Submissions

Kimberly Robertson

Rules

Every Saturday, I post an image from a math textbook. It’s an image that implicitly or explicitly claims that “this is how we use math in the world!”

I post the image without its mathematical connection and offer three possibilities for that connection. One of them is the textbook’s. Two of them are decoys. You guess which connection is real.

After 24 hours, I update the post with the answer. If a plurality of the commenters picks the textbook’s connection, one point goes to Team Commenters. If a plurality picks one of my decoys, one point goes to Team Me. If you submit a mathematical question in the comments about the image that isn’t pseudocontext, collect a personal point.

(See the rationale for this exercise.)

This was a nail-biter between Team Commenters and Team Me this week, with Team Commenters narrowly tipping the scales in their favor.

The judges rule that this satisfies the second rule of pseudocontext:

Given a question, the assigned method isn’t a method most human beings would use to find it.

Reasonable people might wonder about the dimensions of a water tank. The judges rule that most human beings would use a tape or a stick or any other kind of measuring device to answer it, not a cubic polynomial.

I can’t think of any way to neutralize this pseudocontext. The number of actual contexts for cubic polynomials with non-zero quadratic and linear terms is vanishingly small.

Here is an activity I would much prefer to use to teach the construction of polynomials. It doesn’t involve the real world but it does ask students to do real work.

Featured Comment

One motif in pseudocontextual questions seems to be treating as a variable things that, you know, don’t vary. I have a funny video playing in my mind of some surprised fish watching the volume of their tank become negative. But happily the volume of that tank is not varying, inasmuch as it’s sides are made of glass.

## [Pseudocontext Saturdays] Spaghetti Bridge

This Week’s Installment

Poll

What mathematical skill is the textbook trying to teach with this image?

[poll id=”9″]

(If you’re reading via email or RSS, you’ll need to click through to vote. Also, you’ll need to check that link tomorrow for the answer.)

Current Scoreboard

I’m kicking the number of options back up to three. Two options simply doesn’t give y’all the challenge I know you need.

Team Me: 4
Team Commenters: 3

Pseudocontext Submissions

John Gibson

I don’t know if this is pseudocontext, but I for sure don’t know under what circumstances anyone would wonder about resultant momentum. In my head right now it’s like wondering about the middle names of the people who manufactured that car. It feels like trivia! I’m not saying it is trivia, but I am wondering if someone can put me in a position where knowing how to calculate resultant momentum would feel like power rather than punishment.

Rules

Every Saturday, I post an image from a math textbook. It’s an image that implicitly or explicitly claims that “this is how we use math in the world!”

I post the image without its mathematical connection and offer three possibilities for that connection. One of them is the textbook’s. Two of them are decoys. You guess which connection is real.

After 24 hours, I update the post with the answer. If a plurality of the commenters picks the textbook’s connection, one point goes to Team Commenters. If a plurality picks one of my decoys, one point goes to Team Me. If you submit a mathematical question in the comments about the image that isn’t pseudocontext, collect a personal point.

(See the rationale for this exercise.)

The commenters took this one right on the nose. The pseudocontext was in the last place they looked.

The judges rule that this violates the first rule of pseudocontext:

Given a context, the assigned question isn’t a question most human beings would ask about it.

Moreover, I just don’t see any congruent triangles in the picture. None. I know I’ll see some if you widen the camera’s angle, but there aren’t any in the frame right now, which makes this a uniquely poor context.

The only way I can think to neutralize this pseudocontext:

Show students four spaghetti bridges. They have to decide which ones are fragile and which ones are strong. Understanding congruency somehow (waves hands) makes them more accurate in their decision-making.

Featured Comment

Dick Fuller:

I like physics. And math. One without the other is school.

## [Pseudocontext Saturdays] Rock Climber

This Week’s Installment

Poll

What mathematical skill is the textbook trying to teach with this image?

[poll id=”8″]

(If you’re reading via email or RSS, you’ll need to click through to vote. Also, you’ll need to check that link tomorrow for the answer.)

Current Scoreboard

Team Me: 4
Team Commenters: 2

Pseudocontext Submissions

Jennifer Pazirandeh:

Jon Orr:

Michelle Pavlovsky:

Rules

Every Saturday, I post an image from a math textbook. It’s an image that implicitly or explicitly claims that “this is how we use math in the world!”

I post the image without its mathematical connection and offer three possibilities for that connection. One of them is the textbook’s. Two of them are decoys. You guess which connection is real.

After 24 hours, I update the post with the answer. If a plurality of the commenters picks the textbook’s connection, one point goes to Team Commenters. If a plurality picks one of my decoys, one point goes to Team Me. If you submit a mathematical question in the comments about the image that isn’t pseudocontext, collect a personal point.

(See the rationale for this exercise.)

I lose again. (But aren’t we all winners on Pseudocontext Saturdays? No? Just you. Okay.)

The judges rule that this violates the first rule of pseudocontext:

Given a context, the assigned question isn’t a question most human beings would ask about it.

I think we can neutralize this pseudocontext by simply deleting the context. Delete the rock wall and we delete the lie that rock climbers are concerned with quadrilaterals while simultaneously preserving a task with a lot of admirable qualities.